We won’t find out Kentucky’s bowl or opponent until December 2, but most projections have the Cats in the Citrus Bowl facing Penn State or Northwestern. There’s a chance Kentucky could drop down to the Outback Bowl or lower if LSU doesn’t get a New Year’s Six Bowl, but it’s more likely than not that the Cats will be taking on the Nittany Lions or the other Wildcats this postseason.
While we wait for the chips to fall, here’s a little bit about each team.
Penn State Nittany Lions
CFP Ranking: No. 12
SB Nation S&P+ Rating: No. 13
Losses: 27-26 vs. No. 4 Ohio State; 21-17 vs. Michigan State, 42-7 at No. 5 Michigan
Penn State is led by Trace McSorley, a dual-threat quarterback who was considered a Heisman candidate earlier this year. This season, he has 2,284 yards and 16 touchdowns passing and 723 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing. During his Penn State career, he’s thrown and run for a touchdown in 21 games and is the program leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. A three-star recruit, McSorely actually committed to Vanderbilt, but followed James Franklin to Happy Valley, where he’s become the winningest quarterback in program history. He even wrote a thank you letter to Penn State fans ahead of his Senior Day. They freaking love him.
Trace McSorley with a thank you letter to PSU fans in the game program. pic.twitter.com/thOzrSv9EO
— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) November 24, 2018
While dual-threat quarterbacks have historically given Kentucky fits, it’s worth noting that the Cats held Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald to only 145 yards passing, 20 yards rushing, and one rushing touchdown earlier this season.
As McSorely goes, Penn State goes. After losing Sasquon Barkley to the NFL draft and hiring a new offensive coordinator (Ricky Rahne), the Nittany Lions’ offense has struggled at times this season. Their defense got embarrassed by Michigan a month ago, but has rebounded since, allowing just 20 points over its last three games (Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland). That being said, they rank 72nd in rushing defense, allowing 168.4 yards per game. Back on Nov. 10, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor ran 20 times for 185 yards an a touchdown, which could be a good sign for Benny Snell as he continues to chase Sonny Collins’ all-time rushing record.
Also, their mascot is hideous.
CFP Ranking: No. 19
SB Nation S&P+ Rating: No. 49
Losses: 21-7 vs. Duke; 39-34 vs. Akron; 20-17 vs. No. 14 Michigan; 31-21 vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
Ah yes, a rematch of last year’s Music City Bowl bummer. Gone are running backs Justin Jackson and Jeremy Larkin, who racked up 269 yards and two touchdowns vs. Kentucky last year, but quarterback Clayton Thorson, who was injured in the second quarter of that game, is back, as is linebacker Paddy Fisher, who was ejected for targeting. True freshman running back Isaiah Bowser, who has an incredible backstory, has taken over the rushing attack, with 736 yards and six touchdowns off 161 carries. Somehow, despite four losses — one to Akron — the Wildcats will play Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday, a testament to the conference’s weak West Division.
Northwestern’s strength this season is their defense, which is holding opponents to 21.7 points, 238 passing yards, and 134.7 rushing yards per game. They also lead the nation in fewest penalties, committing only 34 this season. From what I can gather, the Wildcats aren’t spectacular at anything, but don’t mess up enough to hurt themselves.
As for their mascot, as I pointed out last year, Willie the Wildcat is inferior to Kentucky’s Wildcat, but does wear some cool suits.
With a mini-scouting report done, there’s only one more question to ask: